Offworld Nightmare Vigilante Persecuted*
Relentless Fearless Merciless
*based on the ﬁlm written and directed by Daniel Lusko
I WiLL NOT BE SiLEnT RObin PARRiSH
based on a Daniel Lusko ﬁlm
© 2014 by Daniel Lusko Published by Bethany House Publishers 11400 Hampshire Avenue South Bloomington, Minnesota 55438 www.bethanyhouse.com Bethany House Publishers is a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan Printed in the United States of America All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Parrish, Robin. Persecuted : I Will Not Be Silent / Robin Parrish. pages cm “Based on a Daniel Lusko ﬁlm.” ISBN 978-0-7642-1267-3 (cloth : alk. paper) ISBN 978-0-7642-1266-6 (pbk.) 1. Evangelists—Fiction. 2. Malicious accusation—Fiction. I. Title. PS3616.A7684P47 2014 813 .6—dc232014003976 Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com Scripture quotation in chapter 34 is taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. This is a work of ﬁction. Names, characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
ersecution is a subject that calls to mind the most incredible sufferings from all over the world, dating back to the days of Christ. Writing a movie called Persecuted comes with it a heavy task. Everyone can relate to the feeling of being persecuted for one’s beliefs. The truth is many people feel persecuted, even within the Church, but few for the right reasons. I want readers to know why I undertook this cause and why this particular story sits in front of them today. The stakes are high. I believe this project means life or death to those who are suffering from grave persecution all over the globe. In America, we have become insulated in our lives to the point that few people, if any, seem to understand what it means to take up their cross and follow Christ. We’re raised to think the Christian life consists of following a celebrity pastor and being involved in exciting events. This is not the case in much of the world today, as elsewhere persecution is something that is understood as part of the package in accepting salvation. Jesus said: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” There is a power in suffering for the purpose of God, a power few have experienced in the West.
When persecution comes, few will be prepared for what comes with it. The story of this ﬁlm is just the beginning of an awakening to prepare believers for a choice that will have to be made. I fear many will be wiped away, for the cares of the world will swallow them up. There is a cost to following Christ. Those who believe will know that cost, and they will have their reward in heaven. If you’re asleep, I hope this wakes you up, because truth is stranger than ﬁction. If you’re suffering worse conditions than those depicted here, don’t lose heart, for God is with you. Bottom line: There’s much more beyond the pages of this story; this is a symbol of the bridge I believe we must cross if we’re to be joined with the remaining body of Christ around the world. This is a wake-up call. Many of our freedoms granted to us by God will surely be ripped away unless we make a stand. This story is just the beginning. Daniel Lusko, writer and director of Persecuted
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
—First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States
The framers of our Constitution meant we were to have freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.
—Reverend Billy Graham
A man who won’t die for something is not ﬁt to live.
—Martin Luther King Jr.
oom. Shot to the chest, instantaneous heart explosion. Emmett Olson. Brooklyn, eight years ago. The next target came up. Mr. Gray took aim . . . Boom. Precision shot to the head, dead on impact. Gino Mendoza. Columbia, seven years ago. He pressed the reset button on the panel in front of him. It triggered a belt in the ceiling of the shooting range that carried new paper targets into place. It was a huge place, larger than most, and Mr. Gray was setting each ﬁfty yards away. But even so . . . Boom. Shot to the stomach, right where he’d aimed. Terrell Cobb. Tallahassee, ﬁve years ago. He almost allowed a smile. That had been a more difficult, and therefore entertaining, job. The target wasn’t supposed to just die but actually suffer for a bit ﬁrst. So Mr. Gray had aimed for lower body mass. It had taken eight minutes for Terrell Cobb to bleed out over his kitchen ﬂoor.
You got what you paid for when you hired Mr. Gray. He was a professional. His name, of course, wasn’t really Mr. Gray. That was how he was known to those who employed his unique talents. Only a handful of people had had the misfortune of discovering the name he was born with, and he’d silenced them. Permanently. Other men of his vocation would frown on assigning emotional values to past jobs. Mr. Gray found that it enhanced his skills. He was about to take his next shot when his phone vibrated. No. Whoever it was could wait. The best marksmen could make any shot, even amid distraction. Boom. Head shot, double tap. Colton Lind. Tulsa, three years ago. The last hit he’d completed before taking on his new broader security assignment. After taking a moment to ensure that his shots matched up with how he remembered the Tulsa job, he placed his gun down on the counter and pulled the phone from his pocket. It was the phone whose number he’d only given to his employer. It had already stopped ringing, but it logged the caller’s number with a 202 area code. Someone here in Washington, D.C., but not his employer. The phone buzzed once. A message had been left. Interesting. Mr. Gray slipped the phone back in his pocket and returned his attention to the range. He had ﬁfteen more shots to complete before he was ready for any distractions. Discipline and focus had gotten him this far. It was a core value—of his and of his clients. The remaining shots went cleanly, with only the fourteenth slipping outside his intended area by more than an inch or two. Mr. Gray cleaned and packed away his gun, stowed his earplugs, and left the range, nodding once to the guard who’d been waiting for him to ﬁnish so the place could be closed for the night.
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Only when he’d made it to his car—an intentionally unremarkable sedan with an intentionally remarkable engine under its hood—did Mr. Gray ﬁnally retrieve his phone and listen to the message left for him. The caller had followed protocol, sharing nothing about the desired job and providing only a phone number to an untraceable cell phone. “Your employer,” the message concluded, “suggested you as the best he’d ever met. He’s been quite pleased with your assistance these last two years. I think you’re exactly the right man for this opportunity.” Even without the caller’s name, Mr. Gray could tell he was a politician. Elected officials were all the same, always trying to get people to like them. Their pockets were deep, however. Mr. Gray pulled an unused burner cell phone from his bag and placed the call to the number that had been left. When the call was answered, the unmistakable sound of a party—glasses clinking, forced laughter, even a band—could be heard immediately. “Go where no one can hear you or I will hang up.” “Got to take this,” he heard the voice on the other line say and then the rustling of him walking away. Thirty seconds later, the caller said, “I’m alone.” “What’s your need?” “Oh. So, uh, what I need to know is how quickly you can go to work, once you’ve been given approval to proceed.” “Deﬁne work,” said Mr. Gray, his patience being tested. “Well, it’s like this. For some time now I’ve been trying to convince my friend to join me in a vitally important initiative. I believe I still have a chance of winning him over, but if I can’t, if he won’t play ball . . . I may have need of your services.” Mr. Gray considered the man’s words. Politicians usually dealt in vague terms, because clarity was too incriminating. “Services?”
“Not that. Hopefully not that. But if he’s not for us, then he can’t be an obstacle. Your boss said you could handle this kind of complicated situation. You’ve helped him in the past.” “My fee is nonnegotiable,” Mr. Gray said. “Money is not a concern. Only success—and discretion, of course.” “I can guarantee both.” “That’s why I called you.” “Send me the details electronically, along with payment in full. One hundred percent, in advance. Once that’s done, I will present you with options for removing your obstacle. And anything else you may need.” “Excellent,” said the politician. “You’ll have both within the hour. I’ll be in touch.” Mr. Gray clicked off, opened the phone, removed the SIM card, and snapped it in half. He’d ﬁnish destroying it at home, along with the phone. He glanced at his watch—1:30 a.m. Another productive day. Starting the car, he began the drive back to the ﬂat he’d secured as his base of operations here in Washington, D.C. It amazed him, after spending time on the ground in Iran, Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Somalia, how this city, in some ways, could be just as vicious. Just as dangerous. It suited him well. Car pointed home, kniﬁng through the quiet streets like a shark through water, Mr. Gray thought of the job that might wait ahead, that just might prove interesting. It was another chance to test his skills, another opportunity to put his training to work.
hey were chanting. No, they were shouting. Screaming. This mob stationed outside the front gate, in the pouring rain, was screaming in shared outrage. But what were they saying? There was no audio on the news feed. There were two sides to the mob, each as angry as the other. On one side were signs adorned with slogans like Heaven is not a gated community! and I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. The other half of the mob held signs that said Jesus is the way and the light! and Grace and truth come from Christ! Good grief, now they were singing. John Luther turned his attention away from the TV monitor on the ﬂoor to his left, which had brieﬂy cut away to the protestors outside Truth Ministries’ headquarters. Now his own visage was back on the screen, where he was being broadcast live. “Freedom has been under attack in every generation, and ours is no exception.” John’s sincere, steady gaze locked tight on the anchorwoman sitting across from him. He fought the urge to stare into the camera just over her right shoulder, as well as a vague desire to loosen his silk tie.
His surroundings were unusually sparse for a TV newsroom. CNW was as high-tech a network as any, and during his prior appearances he had always been seated in front of a green screen so that audiences would see an old Gothic church behind him. It was a different church every time, and John didn’t recognize most of them. Just a visual cue to his vocation and traditionalist leanings, but it wasn’t the image he would have chosen for himself. If he had to have a representative image projected behind him, he’d rather it be the stark beauty of an old wooden cross. Or maybe a picture of two hands with holes in the palms. A tired-looking producer had explained to him an hour ago that they’d decided to go with a simple setup for this interview so that the focus would be on him, on this all-important occasion. It sounded nice, but John guessed they were in such a hurry to get him on the air that they didn’t have time to assemble the usual background. Seated across from him was Diana Lucas, CNW’s most wellknown and respected journalist. Blond and attractive, Diana had the kind of steely gaze that let her interviewees know this was her interview and she was in total control. She listened carefully to John’s every word, though she didn’t miss an opportunity to jump in when he paused. “Who better to speak on the subject of freedom than you, John,” she said. “You’ve been hailed as ‘God’s Ambassador’ by some of the world’s foremost dictatorships: Sudan, North Korea, and Iran. But there are those who claim that your ministry is intolerant, that it’s condescending to people of other faiths. Some in Washington have said that your crusades may even threaten the freedoms of others.” John had sat across from her enough times to know that Diana Lucas approached every on-screen interview as a game of tactical chess, measuring the tiniest of facial tics and the most
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subtle vocal modulations with the skill of a criminal proﬁler. She knew exactly when to listen, and when to pounce. Her pointed statement might have gotten under his skin a decade ago, yet this sort of exchange was old hat now. He shook his head and affected a sad expression. “Diana, if I thought for one second that I could look down on anyone else for their beliefs, I wouldn’t be sitting here. I’m not a Republican. I’m not a Democrat. I don’t belong to any particular religious denomination. My personal history is no better than any of your viewers. Do you know what kind of person I used to be? Who I really was?” Diana said nothing. Maybe she was waiting for him to bury himself with his own words. Or maybe she was genuinely speechless for once. John couldn’t tell. “An abusive, alcoholic, gambling drug addict,” he explained. “And I deserved nothing less than death when God came into my life.” Diana’s eyebrow twitched; it was barely visible, but John caught it. She’d allowed him considerable leeway, though her patience was running out now. He knew she was about to change the subject. “So, John,” she said smoothly, “what is your opinion of the primary tenets of the Faith and Fairness Act? And I quote, ‘To publicly declare your religious beliefs in a way that permits equal time and respect to other systems of faith.’” For the ﬁrst time since the interview began, John bristled internally. But he swallowed it quickly, refusing to let her ruffle him on camera. “Freedom is fragile and costly,” he said with conviction. “It must be constantly protected and defended by work and by faith.” Diana waited with her eyebrows pinched upward. John knew she was hoping for more, a stronger, more controversial sound bite.
It was awfully tempting to give it to her. But then why not? Why not say exactly what he was thinking? It was true, wasn’t it? Come to think of it, people needed to hear it. If this bill passed Congress, there’d be many who wished that someone had come out and said it beforehand. John would never get a better opportunity. He squared his shoulders. Yes, freedom had to be defended by work and faith. But also . . . “Even by blood.” His voice resounded like a judge’s gavel closing a heated court case. It was his ﬁnal word on the subject, and he could see that even Diana sensed it. She jumped at the chance to end the interview there, transitioning effortlessly to a wrap-up of John’s statements before handing things back over to the anchor desk. John sat still in his seat, listening to her talk. Even after she was done, after she’d risen from her seat to shake his hand and thank him for his time, he remained frozen in place. Had he really just said that out loud? What was he thinking? Well, now he’d really done it. The board wouldn’t approve of such strong words, as if suggesting their freedom to worship as they saw ﬁt had to be defended with blood. But he would remind them that this bill was really happening, making this no time to soft-pedal or hold back. The easy thing would be to stay silent, but too much was at stake. They would be judged for how they acted right now—or refused to act. No matter how many people would condemn him for it, or how many times it would be taken out of context in repeated news broadcasts, John knew it was the truth and had to be said. If not by him, then who? There probably wasn’t anyone else inﬂuential enough to say it so that it mattered. Maybe it had come across as too trite or too practiced. He hoped not. John found it hard to gauge his own on-screen per16
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formances. But he didn’t just believe the words he’d said. He knew them to be true. Not that long ago he’d been a wretched example of humanity who deserved the worst punishment eternity could offer. Not every man could understand the all-encompassing depths of God’s amazing grace the way John Luther did. Not everyone knew what could be defended by blood.
39 YEARS AGO
he gunshot was so loud, it hurt John’s ears. As the cop knelt to the ground to check on the victim— his partner—the drug runner doubled back the way he came and made a run for it. Blood slowly pooled the ground underneath the fallen police detective, an elder member of the squad, while his partner frantically pulled a black radio from his belt. “Officer down! Corner of West 5th and Buena Vista! Get the paramedics here now!” screamed the cop into the receiver. John’s heart raced with excitement as he watched the scene play out in front of him. He’d never seen anything so visceral, so realistic. He still couldn’t quite believe he was here. It was like a dream. Just ten years old, he’d lived a fairly sheltered life. The old man had seen to that. His father was a priest, a very respected and respectable one who clung to old-fashioned traditional values until they choked like that collar he wore around his neck. As such, he’d forbidden his son from engaging in most popular forms of entertainment and media—including movies. John had
been invited to the cinema many times by friends from school, but his dad always said no. A week ago John had presented his father with a crisp new report card bearing straight A’s. It was the ﬁrst time he’d ever scored top marks across the board, and it had required some seriously hard work in several disciplines that John found more challenging than most of the kids in his class. As a reward, the old man had offered him a free wish. Anything he wanted—within reason, not to mention budget—he could have. John’s wish was to see the big-budget buddy-cop movie that all the guys in school were raving about. Reluctantly his father had relented on his standard policy and agreed to take him. The movie was only ﬁfteen minutes in, and it was already the most exciting thing John had ever seen in his life. He already knew some of what was going to happen—that this older policeman who’d been shot was going to die, allowing the other cop to take on a rookie partner, kicking the story off for real—thanks to the kids at school. But he’d just learned that there was a big difference between hearing about something, and seeing and hearing it with his own senses. Despite this, it wasn’t a perfect experience. He could feel the disapproval emanating off his father in the seat to his right. Every time somebody on-screen uttered a word John only heard shouted by rough boys on the playground—words he never dared use himself—his father would let out a loud sigh or angrily mumble something indiscernible. A minute later the older cop on the screen died from his gunshot wound, just as John knew he would. His younger partner stood to his feet, turned his anguished, outraged face to the sky, and screamed a single curse as loud as he could. John knew his father would bristle at this, yet he wasn’t at all prepared for what happened next. Charles Luther, local priest and single father, cleared his throat
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loud enough for the entire theater to hear and stood. Everyone within a twenty-foot radius craned their heads in his direction. Charles squeezed past his son to exit the aisle. “Come on, John,” he said, seeming not to care about how loud he was talking. What did he mean, “come on”? They weren’t leaving, they couldn’t. This was his wish, the reward he’d worked months for. “I don’t want to leave!” John whispered in reply, panic ﬂooding his heart. He knew it wasn’t wise to argue with his father, and under any other circumstances he’d already be on his feet, right in step behind the old man. But this was different. He’d waited so long for this! Charles Luther froze and pointed his hard, expressionless gaze at his son. John swallowed but stood his ground. Or rather, sat. “Get. Up.” His father’s words came out with his usual calm demeanor, but the undertone was painfully clear. John was now in serious danger of stepping over the line. “But why?” John whispered. “You promised!” “I won’t have this kind of ﬁlth and violence ﬁlling your mind. We’re going.” John had been angry before, many times. But never had he felt a rage so searing or urgent as what he felt at this moment. He turned his eyes back to the movie screen and replied, out loud, with a single word. “No.” The word had barely escaped his lips when he felt a painfully tight grip on his left forearm, jerking him out of his seat. No longer speaking, Charles pulled his son physically into the aisle. “NO!” John screamed, pulling against his dad as hard as he could to try to get back to his seat. Undeterred, Charles kept pulling. A big bear of a man, in another life he’d worked construction before entering Episcopalian priesthood, and still retained his strength of both muscles and will. His ten-year-old son was no match for him.
Still John refused to cooperate, pulling and screaming, “No! No! No!” as loud as he could. He was, as his father called it when they witnessed other children exhibiting this sort of behavior, causing a scene. And he didn’t care. His father was strict and relentless in his insistence on sheltering John from all things “worldly,” and he also ruled the house with stern control that so stiﬂed John he had trouble breathing. This was the ﬁrst time John had ever dared to ﬁght back against the old man, and he surged with the adrenaline rush, the feeling of exerting power. He wouldn’t win, of course, and he knew he shouldn’t be behaving this way. But he was proving right now that he could resist his father and make things difficult for him. It was strangely satisfying. Charles dragged him, literally kicking and screaming, out of the theater and into the lobby, where a few dozen patrons turned in their direction. John was red in the face, screaming at the top of his lungs. He began to cry. “But you promised!” he yelled. “You promised!” “Yes, I did, John,” Charles replied calmly. “And now I have to break that promise. Because I love you.” “Well, I don’t love you!” John screamed. “I hate you!” He didn’t mean it, of course. But it felt good to hurt his father. It was the ﬁrst time he could ever remember seeing his father’s stoic face show pain.
hey were still there. The protestors brandishing their big wooden signs like pitchforks and torches, right outside the studios of Truth Ministries. The rain was coming down harder now. Someone—probably Ryan—had left the small TV in his dressing room tuned to CNW, which was again showing a live view of the protests going on outside the building. A CNW cameraman forced his way through the crowd like a shark drawn to blood, slicing to a point close to the studio entrance, where two voices were growing louder by the second. A man and a woman stood opposite each other. The microphone didn’t pick up what the woman said, but when she shoved her large Faith for Everyone! sign into the man’s face, it was pretty clear where she stood. The man swatted away the sign and replaced it with a well-worn Bible held high like a medieval sword. The man’s furious words were audible over the TV . “This is all I need!” he shouted. “God’s Word! This is all anyone needs!” The female protestor smacked the Bible away and onto the ground. The fundamentalist stood there for a moment, his mind
unable to catch up to the sight of his treasured possession being cast to the wet ground like so much trash. Then he snapped. He threw himself at the woman full of red-faced rage and pain. The protestor gave back as good as she got, and as the TV camera captured the initial blows of their violence, the rest of the crowd made up of protestors and supporters—separated like football players on either side of the line of scrimmage—surged toward one another, launching punches and kicks in a thunder of fury. The left edge of the camera’s view caught a young woman leaning over to pick the Bible up off the ground. She clutched it to her chest protectively while closing her eyes. Around her the hatred swarmed, yet she seemed to be shutting out everything else, retreating deep inside herself for protection from the madness on all sides. The CNW camera panned out slowly, poetically capturing the rain-soaked pandemonium erupting on Truth Ministries’ doorstep. John was about to turn away from the TV when Diana Lucas’s voice added a soundtrack to the on-screen action. “‘Faith must be defended by blood,’” she said in her most sincere intonation. “Those were the bold words of evangelist John Luther earlier this evening. And as you can see, they appear to have been taken literally by the crowd gathered outside the studios of Truth Ministries. Were his words incendiary? Our panel of experts is itching to answer that question. . . .” Beneath the live footage of the ﬁght, words scrolled across the bottom of the screen that included Evangelist Calls on Christians to Fight Senate Bill and John Luther’s War Cry. John sighed, slowly and deliberately sliding his watch over his wrist. How many children were starving to death right now? How many Africans were dying of AIDS at this very moment? How many believers in hostile nations were suffering for holding ﬁrmly to their faith? And yet a petty ﬁstﬁght outside a television
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studio was what the national news was covering, using John’s own words to fan the ﬂames of hatred and prejudice. He idly wondered if walking outside into the crowd might do anything to calm the swelling riot. But the thought passed quickly, as he knew that his presence would only have the opposite effect, and he didn’t need to make things worse right now. Like it or not, he was a lightning rod in the public eye when it came to matters of faith. Everyone had strong feelings about the Faith and Fairness Act, and equally strong feelings about John Luther. All John really wanted was to preach the Gospel. It was his reason for breathing. He wanted to share with any who would listen about the love and grace and forgiveness that had been given to him. He turned off the television and sat down at his modest dressing table. Thankfully it had only been a short drive from CNW’s studios across D.C. to his own ministry’s headquarters on the outskirts of the capital. It gave him the time he needed to prepare. Hands clasped together and eyes closed tight, he prayed softly, “Lord, make me a channel of thy life, thy truth, thy way, thy words. Pure, honest, clean. Pure, honest, clean . . .” John smoothed his hair back over his left ear, thinking of how he was the last person to judge those people outside in the rain. God knew he’d done worse things than starting ﬁghts in his day. Besides, human beings had been ﬁghting over the Gospel of Jesus Christ for thousands of years and weren’t scheduled to stop until time itself came to an end. And he had a feeling this particular confrontation might have been . . . helped along. He’d been behind the curtain of the media long enough to know how far they’d go to drive up ratings. He just hoped the authorities could end the ﬁght before serious injuries began racking up. The clock on the wall told him it was almost time. John stood and buttoned the top button of his shirt. Tightened his red
necktie. Then he began bouncing and shadowboxing around the room, punching at the air. Left jab. Breathe. Right jab. It seemed like the whole world wanted a ﬁght. Maybe he’d give them one. His sermon tonight would be one for the books. All eyes were on him, and his only move was to come out swinging. John stopped to button up his sleeve cuffs. On the inside of his left wrist he saw the small cross he’d had tattooed there years before he knew what it meant. It had been a joke—a jab at his father, Now . . . he leaned over the still-open Bible on the dressing table and read a few more words. Closing his eyes again, he prayed, “All I want is the truth. All I want is the truth.” A tiny knock came from the dressing room door. “Mr. Luther,” a small voice said. It belonged to a young staff member. What was her name? She opened the door and stuck her head in. “Senator Harrison is here to see you.” Donald? What was he . . . ? Oh. Of course. John should have seen this coming. Still, his old friend’s timing was terrible. He had less than ﬁve minutes to show time. “I can’t talk to him right now,” he told the staffer. Didn’t he know that time was short, and John was supposed to be on in a matter of minutes? “He really wants to see you,” the girl replied, her voice rising. “I don’t know what to say to him.” John held up his hands to calm her. “It’s okay, it’s ﬁne. Just send him in.” He sighed. Donald was here for one thing and one thing only. But maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. He could dream, right? Meh. If Jesus Christ could hold himself to a wooden cross in unimaginable pain for three hours, John could survive ﬁve minutes with Senator Donald Harrison.